When it comes to fantasy football, just about all of us know the players we need to target in the early rounds.
But if you want to have a successful fantasy season, you absolutely need to target players with the most value. We’re, of course, talking about sleepers.
Make the smart picks at the top of the draft and pair them with undervalued studs — players ready to break out or bounce back after poor seasons — in the middle and late rounds, and you’re on your way to a big season.
Here are some of the best sleepers to target for the 2020 NFL season.
QB Baker Mayfield, Cleveland Browns
A breakout candidate a year ago, Mayfield and the 6-10 Browns were humbled in 2019. Poor offensive line play was a big reason why. Cleveland addressed that problem by signing Jack Conklin and drafting Jedrick Wills in the first round. There’s still a ton of talent on the outside with Jarvis Landry and Odell Beckham Jr., and having a full season of Kareem Hunt to catch passes out of the backfield should help, too.
QB Drew Lock, Denver Broncos
If you’re not drafting Lamar Jackson or Patrick Mahomes, there’s no reason to overspend on a QB. Lock might not be the player you build a franchise around, but he has sneaky-good fantasy potential. Just look around him. Courtland Sutton had a breakout season a year ago with more than 1,100 yards. The Broncos doubled (and tripled) down in the draft by grabbing Alabama standout Jerry Jeudy before nabbing KJ Hamler out of Penn State. Sutton and Hamler can absolutely fly, and Jeudy has incredible playmaking skills, so it won’t take much for Lock to get them in good spots to make big plays.
RB Alexander Mattison, Minnesota Vikings
You just can’t trust Dalvin Cook to stay healthy. The explosive back has played in just 29 of a possible 48 games in his career. So you might as well look at his backup, and there are few better backups than Mattison, who probably would start on some teams. To say Mattison has big-play potential is an understatement. He ranked first in Pro Football Focus’ breakaway percentage, earning nearly half of his yardage on big plays. There should be plenty of touches to go around, too. Mike Zimmer favors a conservative approach, and that’s why the run-minded Gary Kubiak is calling the shots with that offense now.
RB Jonathan Taylor, Indianapolis Colts
The Colts drafted up to take Taylor. That’s a clear tell not only of what they think of him but seemingly hints at their plans for 2020. Let’s not forget this, either: Indy has one of the best offensive lines in football. The entire offense has been upgraded, but expect Taylor to impose his will on opponents early and often this season.
RB Cam Akers, Los Angeles Rams
Not sure who needs this reminder, but Todd Gurley no longer calls LA home. Akers averaged more than 5 yards per touch on an underachieving Florida State team last season. Now, the rookie back finds a soft landing space in one of the NFL’s most innovative offenses where there are touches to be had. Seems like a good spot.
WR N’Keal Harry, New England Patriots
Well, it can’t get much worse for Harry, right? The Arizona State product had a forgettable debut in a complicated Patriots offense. Maybe he actually benefits from Tom Brady’s departure. He won’t need to earn Brady’s trust, and he’s been quick to get in work with presumed starter Cam Newton. Harry showed first-round flashes in limited time last season, and if he can stay healthy, there’s still a lot of potential.
WR Breshad Perriman, New York Jets
Perriman just makes plays — when he gets the chance. The 2015 first-round pick already is on his fourth team and has yet to put it all together for a full season, but the flashes are tantalizing. He was sensational down the stretch last season when just about the entire Bucs receivers room was injured. Perriman stepped in and caught 25 passes for 506 yards and five touchdowns in the final five games of the season. He figures to be a focal point of an improved Jets offense.
WR Justin Jefferson, Minnesota Vikings
Jefferson might be the steal of the draft. Yes, we’ve already mentioned the Vikings will be run-heavy. The thinking here, however, is a solid run game will set up playaction. When Kirk Cousins is your quarterback, that’s good news.
That Jefferson is a great route-runner, good after the catch and has a high football IQ only adds to the intrigue.
TE Blake Jarwin, Dallas Cowboys
The Cowboys obviously like Jarwin, as evidenced by the three-year contract extension they gave him this spring. He got 41 targets last year, which is a modest total but one that should increase this season with Jason Witten off to Las Vegas.
There is some uncertainty, as there are a lot of mouths to feed, especially after Dallas drafted wideout CeeDee Lamb. And new head coach Mike McCarthy doesn’t have a glowing tight end track record. However, the chemistry between Jarwin and quarterback Dak Prescott is tough to ignore.
TE Mike Gesicki, Miami Dolphins
Gesicki definitely got his looks last season, receiving at least six targets in 10 games. Also, the harsh reality is the COVID-19 pandemic is forcing teams to alter their strategies, and the Dolphins are no different after wideouts Albert Wilson and Allen Hurns opted out of the 2020 campaign. Gesicki figures to benefit from that, of course, and the Dolphins are open to using him in a variety of ways, as he’ll apparently get some looks in the slot, too.